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Tantrums Suck

Assemble the pieces life throws at you ~ Virginia Woolf


Lately, my friends (and anyone who’ll listen, really)  have been hearing me complain about the tantrums of my 3 y.o.  And, let me tell you, she can throw-down!  The tantrums are unpleasant, no doubt, but I’m even more appalled at my own reaction to them.  I protest the tantrum, yell and get just as feisty and cantankerous as my daughter.  I tell you, if that method worked, I’d continue doing it.  But it doesn’t. 

I have actually asked aloud (no one in the room or anything) “Why Me?!!!”  This question is usually reserved for something far more distressing like being told you have a fatal illness or learning that Chanel just discontinued your favorite  beigy-pink lipstick  . . . When my child is in the throes of a tantrum, I think how much I really dislike my child at that moment, then I question my fitness as a parent, then I question my worth as a human being until I eventually come to a fork in my thought process: do I continue thinking terrible thoughts about my child and myself? or do I reality-check the situation?

Fact: Child hollering, mom hollering.  That’s all.  After that I’m just telling myself stories about what the hollering means: this tantrum  shouldn’t be happening,  I should be able to calm my child down, I should have more patience than Penelope. Tony Robbins likes to say we have a tendency to “should all over ourselves”.  I see his point.  Looking at it this way, I see the futility of all the “shoulding” and the power in the real options at hand:  I can choose to let my child holler without reacting, I can choose to stop my hollering, I can even choose to calmly remove her or myself to a different room while we ride this tantrum thing out. The only thing I don’t get to choose is whether my child is going to flip-out or not.  That’s her choice.

I also received a gift last night – it came wrapped  in this dark thought: “What if I lost my girls and their dad in a plane crash?” Initially, I panicked and immediately wanted to shut that thought down, but when I let myself see this morbid thought all the way through, I  realized with such clarity how precious these people really are to me.  I asked myself if I was appreciating them in the way I might if I could never see them again. I wasn’t.  The tantrums seemed very manageable from this perspective. Not only do I now understand the transient nature of the tantrums, the stuff I don’t like,  but I also understand the transient nature of each happy and fun moment I get to spend with my growing children.

These are some pieces that came flying at me recently and when I assembled them, as Virgina Woolf suggests I do (if you missed it, it’s the quote up top), I discovered that whether my children are behaving like the children in Lord of the Flies or behaving in a manner that I find more pleasant, I can meet them where they are with presence and love.  I can’t say that my new insight will prevent my daughter from throwing tantrums, but it may very well stop me from throwing one with her.

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